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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

The Danger Of Seeing Yourself As The Good Guy

August 16th, 2010

In literature, he or she is referred to as the “protagonist”. The leading character, hero, or heroine of the drama. These are the good guys. The good girls. The characters who, though not perfect and may stumble along the way, do the right thing. Especially in the end.

As good literature proves, without tension there is no story. Enter the antagonist. These are the bad guys and the bad girls. They stand opposed to, struggle against, or compete with the good guys. Their flaws are more obvious than the good guys’, making it much easier for us to dislike, if not hate them.

We cheer the hero. We boo the villain. We find ourselves drawn to the struggle of the heroine. We wonder how the villainess could be so evil. We read on, hoping at each turn of the page that justice will be served.

Simply put, we identify with the good guys. And the good girls. We see ourselves as the protagonist. The hero. Because, really? Why would anyone want to be the zero?

On Sunday morning, walking out the door to church I heard a radio preacher reading from Luke 17. It’s the account of Jesus healing ten lepers. Ostracized and isolated because of their disease, cultural law required them to keep away from the general public. When anyone approached, they were required to yell, “Unclean! Unclean!” as a warning for passers by to keep their distance. Difficult enough to cope with the physical deformities of disease. How emotionally awful would it be to verbally remind yourself and others that you are an outcast?

You likely know the account. The lepers cry out to Jesus as He passes by. “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” And Jesus does just that, telling them to go show themselves to the priest. As they go, they are healed.

The Bible says that one man, upon realizing his healing, runs back to Jesus. Throwing himself at Jesus’ feet he thanks Him profusely. Jesus wonders out loud about the other nine. Did He not heal them, too?

I grew up in the church. From the week that I was born. In 47 years I’ve heard many sermons and Sunday School lessons on Luke 17. I’ve read the passage in my personal time with God. I’ve studied it in seminary classes. I’ve taught the passage in Bible studies. Yet on this Sunday morning the thought occurs to me that in 47 years I’ve always lined myself up with the one who came back to say thanks.

More importantly, in 47 years I’ve never lined myself up with the ungrateful ones who grabbed their healing and walked away, never returning to say “thank you” to their Healer.

I’ve always seen myself as the good guy.

And that’s a problem.

There is an inherent danger to always seeing ourselves as the good guy. Especially when reading the Bible. In fact, I would argue that if we insist on seeing ourselves as the protagonist when studying God’s Word we miss much, if not all, of what God wants us to learn.

We read that Jesus healed the lepers and only one came back to say thanks. We think to ourselves, “That’s me. I would have said thanks.” Really? Are we really that grateful? Do we go through our days keenly aware of every good thing God does for us? Do we always remember to say “thank you”? I can’t speak for you, but I’m not that consistent. And if in my study of God’s Word I always see myself as the good guy then I don’t have to do the hard thinking about all my failures. Or about all the areas of my life that need to improve.

In reading this account, what would happen if we said, “I’m just like the nine who never said thanks.”

If we read the Bible seeing ourselves as the good guy who always agrees with Jesus, it’s quite possible to read the entire Book and never learn a thing. To always imagine ourselves standing at Jesus’ side in righteous agreement with everything He says is to miss the point. Apart from Christ, we are the antagonists. We are the bad guys. The Bible goes as far as to say we were born the bad guys. David says in Psalm 51, “in sin did my mother conceive me”. Paul says in Ephesians 2 that you and I by our very nature are “children of wrath”. Which is to say the only good in us is there because of Who Jesus is.

Here’s an idea. From now on when you read your Bible, identify the person or persons in the text who have the most to learn. Whatever their particular fault is, be they short-sighted, obstinate, arrogant, self-righteous, ungrateful, legalistic, or just plain opposed to God…line yourself up with that person. Line yourself up with the antagonist and say, “That’s me.” Then read the account again and ask God to show you what He wants to teach you.

Oh, and about that account of the ten lepers Jesus healed? The ending has a twist.  The one who came back to say thanks?

He was a Samaritan. A sworn enemy of Jews like Jesus.

It was the bad guy who came back to say thanks.

Could it be we’ll all experience a better ending if we start reading the Scriptures from the perspective of the bad guy?

Todd A. Thompson – ASliceOfLifeToGo.com